The study found the cities in the interior U.S. were the most affordable, and that California cities outperform on school quality.
The ranking index was calculated based on a weighting of 4 factors deemed to be of particular importance to families, drawing on FBI crime data, U.S. Department of Education data and U.S. Census Bureau data:
- Safety (35%): We used FBI data to rank cities by the total number of violent crimes and property crimes per 100,000 residents.
- Housing Affordability (30%): We used Census data on median gross rent as a percentage of household income as an indicator of housing affordability in each city. This measure takes into account not only how expensive rents are, but how well they are balanced with earnings.
- Education Quality (25%): Comparing schools across different states can be challenging due to differing education requirements. We have chosen to use data on high school graduation rates, collected by the Department of Education, as a proxy for overall school quality. Cities were ranked by the graduation rates of their respective public school districts.
- Child Friendliness (10%): Communities with a greater percentage of children tend to be more family friendly, so we used Census data to score cities based on the percentage of the population under age 18.
A higher score is better in the index calculations.